October 1988 saw the publication of one of the most talked about headlines of the acid house era, as The S*n sought to capitalise on the latest dance craze by offering a ‘groovy’ and ‘cool’ t-shirt to readers.
The article, which featured in the tabloid’s Bizarre column, penned by Garry Bushell and Rick Sky, has long been held up as an example of how the mainstream media initially embraced the acid house movement, before reverting to more sensational headlines denouncing this ‘new drug horror’.
Indeed, there’s a sense of hippy-dippy innocence about the article’s opening… “Hey man, have we got a groovy offer for you. Trend setting Bizarre has come up with some far-out T-shorts to help keep you way ahead of Britain’s latest dance craze… Acid House.
“Everyone is talking about ACIEEED, as it’s known in the clubs! And it has brought back all those old hip phrases of the Sixties. Cool, eh? Just like our T-shirts.”
Later in the same article, the authors introduce readers to some of the ‘hip’ lingo of the scene (long before it referred to a social media platform, a Tweet was a ‘very young girl’, apparently); Radio 1 DJ Steve Wright waxes lyrical about the nascent Acid Folk scene (the what now?); and S*n doctor Vernon Coleman warns against the dangers of LSD.
But then again, Acid House was nothing to do with drugs, right?
The t-shirts themselves, designed by ‘the London scene’s top artist Tessa Farringdon’ are available at £5.50, far less than they might cost on the King’s Road, while there are also pointers on where to purchase essential kit such as headscarves, bandanas and cycling shorts.
All in all, looking back, it’s a bit surreal.
As Sarah Thornton wrote in her 1995 work Club Cultures: Music, Media and Subcultural Capital, “without tabloid intervention, it is hard to imagine a British youth movement”, and thus articles such as this, and the ‘ban this sick filth’-style coverage that followed undoubtedly contributed to lighting the touchpaper of what was arguably the last great musical movement.
Indeed, as The Trip’s Nicky Holloway put it (in Richard Norris’ official biography of Paul Oakenfold), “The S*n newspaper did the biggest PR for us. If you were a young kid and hadn’t been to one of these things, and you were reading about that, you’re gonna go ‘that’s fucking great, we’ve got to go to that’.
“They spread it round more than anyone. They were the biggest bunch of hypocrites – they did an anti-acid house piece, yet they were selling acid house T-shirts at the same time.”
In retrospect, the cynic in me thinks that Messrs. Bushell and Sky were ‘in on the joke’, that it was all an elaborate ruse to poke fun at the scene and perhaps inflame their editors. But nonetheless, it will go down as a landmark column in the history of acid house, that still has the power to surprise, 30 years on.
Plus, if ANYONE out there still has one of their Bizarre acid house t-shirts, we’d love to hear from you…
And what’s more, speaking of acid house fashion, why not check out 909originals’ selection of quality t-shirts by clicking here.
[Article originally printed in the tabloid paper whose name rhymes with ‘Bun’, 12 October 1988]